What is the background to the black cats bad press?

The black cat has ancient origins as it was the first colour mutation from the original tabby striped Egyptian domestic cats. The spread of the black cat into Europe has been linked to the traders the Phoenicians c.1200-146BC. The cat was a deity in ancient times and a positive symbol of female fertility, symbolized by the cat godess Bastet. As christianity spread, all other religions were paganised and their gods and godesses turned into devils and demons. Thus the cat was transformed from a respected creature into the hunted and mistrusted animal that suffered terribly for these new beliefs.

Many lonely and isolated women in Middle Age villages kept cats for company, and paid a heavy price for this association. The height of persecution for witchcraft was between 1580 and 1590, when torture, burning and drowning were commonplace punishments for both cat and owner. The Protestant county of Essex was the main hotbed of discontent, and was also the site where the cat first arrived in the country.

Even the physical design of the cat aroused suspicion of supernatural powers in these narrow minded times. The cats ability to land on their feet and their light-reflective eyes were cited as examples of strange powers.

The black cats image was even more dubious than cats in general, this may be because of negative connotations linked to the colour i.e. black mass and black magic.The black cat also has the ability to fade seamlessly into the night, with its coat for camouflage.

It's not all bad news though, as Medieval beliefs extended to positive cat magic, where the cat played an active part in attracting good fortune to the owner. This can be linked to the pantomimes of Dick Whittington and Puss in Boots, where the cat has a significant effect on the life of the lucky owner. Many greetings cards today still convey the message that black cats, in particular, are a powerful emblem of good luck.

In these more enlightened times cats are regarded more benevolently, and their popularity is resurgent, with more than 7 million cats resident in the U.K. The main motive of cat owners is to benefit from the unique companionship that a cat offers, the fringe benefits include reduced blood pressure and stress levels and the overall effect of living longer than non-pet owners.

I can't guarantee that owning a black cat will win you the lottery, but it certainly won't land you up before the beak at the Essex assizes. The cat has a lot to offer you, and the black cat makes a wonderful pet, if you can just forgive them their slightly racy past!

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